On the night before the Deflategate/AFC Championship Game in January of 2015, Roger Goodell was one of the invited guests for a party at the beautiful home of Patriots owner Robert Kraft in Brookline.
His close relationship to his most trusted advisor in the NFL was forever damaged when Goodell eventually suspended Tom Brady four games and then refused to back down for his alleged role in the equivalent of an NFL felony: Deflating the football in the first half of the blowout victory over the Colts the day after the party.
Brady and Kraft vehemently denied Brady had anything to do with the mysterious loss of air pressure and the crime of the century dragged through the court system in lower Manhattan for nearly one year with Brady winning round one, Goodell winning round two and Brady deciding to serve the four games at the beginning of the 2016 season rather than petition the Supreme Court to take the case.
Brady had final say when he went on to win the Super Bowl last season and Goodell was forced to hand the Lombardi Trophy to Kraft and the Super Bowl MVP Trophy to Brady.
Goodell is not likely to be invited back to Kraft’s house any time soon. In fact, he made a surprise low-key appearance at the Pats’ preseason game on Thursday, his first trip back to Foxborough since Deflategate. Perhaps he was just sending up a trial balloon to see what the Patriots fans’ reaction will be in advance of his return for the Sept. 7 opener against the Chiefs.
One week ago Friday night, Goodell was one of the invited guests in Canton to Jerry Jones’ Hall of Fame celebration extravaganza at Glenmoor Country Club following the Gold Jacket dinner. As Justin Timberlake was deep into his two-hour performance in the temporary tent that was big enough for a couple of 767s, Goodell stood in the back chatting and seemed to be enjoying himself.
Seven days after Goodell attended Jones’ party, he delivered what could be a devastating blow to the Cowboys chances to win their first Super Bowl since 1995 by suspending Zeke Elliott for the first six games of the season, pending appeal and potential legal action, for domestic violence.
If Kraft had been Goodell’s closest confidante, then Jones was primarily responsible for growing Goodell’s business to a $14 billion a year enterprise. Jones was reportedly livid with Goodell’s suspension decision on Elliott, which will likely put an end to that friendship, too.
Kraft, a future Hall of Famer, is a compassionate man. That’s why he let Goodell hang out in his suite at the game Thursday night despite how incensed he was at Goodell for his treatment of Brady, who he considers his fifth son.
Jones, I don’t think, will be quite so forgiving. He is the real-life J.R. Ewing. Remember, after he cut separate marketing deals with Nike and Pepsi in 1995, the NFL sued Jones for $300 million and he counter sued for $750 million.
Kraft felt Goodell betrayed him and took the Brady rulings very personally. This is business for Jones as Goodell just sat down the best player on his team. When Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989, they were losing $1 million per month. Jones taught the NFL new ways to make money. Now he could put his incredible resources behind Elliott fighting the suspension.
“The difference is Bob Kraft is Bob Kraft and Jerry Jones is Jerry Jones,” a well-placed source said. “Bob Kraft was always uncomfortable in his role fighting the commissioner. Jerry Jones will not have those concerns. This is going to be much worse than it was with Bob Kraft.”
In Canton last week, Jones said of Elliott: “When you look at everything that I’m aware of, then I’m not anticipating a suspension. I do not anticipate a suspension.”
Elliott has until Wednesday to file an appeal. Goodell can hear the appeal, as he did in the Brady case, or designate another appeal officer, which would likely be Harold Henderson, the former head of the NFL Management Council. The source predicted Goodell would hand off to Henderson to stay away from Jones. I don’t agree. I don’t think Goodell will back down. This is going to be a heavyweight fight.
The commissioner is running out of parties.
BILLS IN 2018
Buffalo started playing for 2018 when it traded wide receiver Sammy Watkins to the Rams and cornerback Ronald Darby to the Eagles on Friday. Unlike the Jets, who cut Darrelle Revis, Brandon Marshall, David Harris, Eric Decker, Nick Mangold, Nick Folk and Breno Giacomini without any relief other than cash savings, the Bills got return on two of their best players. They picked up a second-round pick and CB E.J. Gaines for Watkins and a third-round pick and WR Jordan Matthews for Darby. Watkins has had trouble staying on the field and Buffalo declined to pick up his fifth year option for $13.258 million by the May 2 deadline. They traded him now before he became a free agent at the end of the season. Remember, Buffalo traded the ninth pick in the 2014 draft to the Browns along with first- and fourth-round picks in 2015 to move up five spots to get Watkins. If they just sat tight at No. 9, they could have taken Odell Beckham Jr. Buffalo, with a new regime of GM Brandon Beane (hired on May 9) and coach Sean McDermott, now has two picks in each of the first three rounds of the 2018 draft. “This is not a throw in the towel thing at all,” Beane said.
There’s already a QB controversy in Chicago. And it’s not about whether Mark Sanchez will make the team.
It’s too bad the Bears signing of Mike Glennon didn’t come with a money-back guarantee. Glennon signed a three-year $45 million free agent deal with $18.5 million guaranteed and then less than two months later Chicago gave up two third-round picks and a fourth round pick to move up just one rung to the second spot in the draft to take North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky. They likely could have stayed put and still gotten Trubisky.
Glennon gets $16 million guaranteed this year and $2.5 million guaranteed in 2018, but once the Bears made the move for Trubisky, they looked like fools for signing Glennon. It looks even worse after the first preseason game. I know it’s only practice games, but Trubisky completely outplayed Glennon against the Broncos. Glennon’s first pass was incomplete and his second was returned 50 yards for a TD by Chris Harris. One minute into his Bears debut, he was Jay Cutler. He finished 2-of-8 for 20 yards.
Trubisky was 18-of-25 for 166 yards and tossed a two-yard TD pass to Victor Cruz with 13 seconds left in the first half to complete an impressive drive against the clock. He produced 17 points on his first three possessions. Glennon had a Blutarsky QB rating: 0.0. Trubisky’s was 103.1.
Bears coach John Fox, who survived to get a third year in Chicago after he was 3-13 in 2016, has pretty much handed the job to Glennon.
“The depth chart is not going to change after one game,” Fox said.
If the Bears knew on March 9 when they signed Glennon that on April 27 they would love Trubisky so much they would trade up to get him, there is no way they would have overpaid for Glennon.
By the way, Cruz is wearing the same No. 80 in Chicago, and yes, he did the salsa after he scored. He had three catches for 11 yards. He is listed second-team on the depth chart. Former Giants second-round pick Rueben Randle is listed third team.
FULL OF REFS
The NFL will hire up to 24 full-time officials from the 124 on the current roster. That should help provide some consistency. The familiar complaint every year is the officiating keeps getting worse. But this is the hardest sport to officiate. Baseball umpires blowing calls at first base is much harder to accept than a missed holding call when 300-pound men are getting locked up in the middle of the line or a borderline pass interference call is missed. Remember, so many of these calls only look bad because they are slowed down and replayed over and over again when the officials are making the call in real time. That being said, it remains to be seen if the overall quality of the officiating will improve now that about 20% of the work force will make their NFL job their No. 1 priority during the week… The Jets had the sixth overall pick in the 2006 draft and Cutler, not Vince Young or Matt Leinart, was the QB that the organization strongly considered. GM Mike Tannenbaum drafted left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson instead and you’d have to say that worked out well. Now in charge in Miami, Tannenbaum had a second shot at Cutler after Ryan Tannehill’s knee injury. Dolphins coach Adam Gase, who worked with Cutler in Chicago, helped talk him out of retirement when he was about to start his career as a game analyst for Fox. Tannenbaum chipped in by signing Cutler to a one-year $10 million contract.